A cartoon in the Amrita Bazar Patrika published in May 1947, graphically captured the doubts and confusion in people's minds.5 Titled, ‘Who is Right?’ it showed four key public and political figures, H. S. Suhrawardy, Shyamaprasad Mookerjee (the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha), M. A. Jinnah and M. K. Gandhi each with a placard with their supposed propositions. Thus Suhrawardy holds ‘United Bengal in Divided India’, Mookerjee ‘Divided Bengal in United India’, Jinnah ‘Divided Bengal in Divided India’ and Gandhi holds up a sign with ‘United Bengal in United India’ (Cartoon Source - journals.cambridge.org. Attribution - Figure 1. ‘Who Is Right?’Source: Cartoon in the Hindustan Standard, 17 May 1947, 5.). Click for larger image.
Caught between a neo-colonial narrative jointly crafted by the British and Congress Governments in India, events have a way of being losing context and substance. Jinnah as the man behind partition, is a story that is only partly true.
Three interesting incidents in that crucial period make for a counter-balance to the Jinnah-as-the-villain story that is made out.
The Gallup Poll
Over a period of at least 50 years, successive British bureaucrats and propagandists sold India the story that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together.
On April 23, 1947, the ‘Amrita Bazar Patrika’ featured results of a poll where it had asked if Bengali Hindus wanted a “separate homeland”. An overwhelming 98.3% Bengalis voted in favour, and 0.6% voted against the division of the province. On being asked about this poll, both Dutta Gupta and Singha express concern and suspicion about this poll and many other public discourses that came to conclusions that completed neglected the voice of Hindus living in East Bengal. (via ‘We can only carry India in our hearts’ – Times Of India).
These surveys, were engineered by the Gallup Organization, a leading opinion-polling agency, which controlled India from UK. There was a large body of opinion and support for Muslim autonomy in Muslim majority areas – and ‘Hindu’ support for a Muslim Homeland was in this context. Also, must be the remembered that in polls like this, the question is more important than the answer.
And the reason for the result of this poll, was the questionnaire.
Lala Lajpat Rai asked for Pakistan
Another significant votary for Muslim autonomy in Muslim-majority areas was Lala Lajpat Rai – whose ideas are being projected as support for Pakistanand Partition of India.
(Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; on 4th May 2011; source and courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for source image.
The ‘innocent’ Indian Muslim
Just like ‘Hindu’ support for Pakistan is being twisted out of context, it is equally true of ‘Muslim’ support for Pakistan.
For another, we forget that Indian Muslims from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan did not vote for Pakistan or Jinnah.
It was a small minority, of less than 5 lakhs who voted for the Muslim League, carefully selected by the British, which was designated as representative of Muslim interests, that voted for Pakistan. From the nearly 10 crore Muslims. A fact we would do well to remember.
Indian Muslims did not chose the Muslim League. British policy in India made it seem that Indian Muslims had chosen the Muslim League. Of the nearly 10 crore Muslims, less than 5 lakhs voted for the Muslim League. Jinnah’s claim and bravado sprang from the backing of half a per cent of India’s Muslim Population.
Popular leaders like Sheikh Abdullah of Kashmir or the Deoband Seminary rejected emphatically Jinnah and his Pakistan theory. The ordinary Muslim had no truck with Jinnah or Pakistan. Meanwhile, Sachar Committee report notwithstanding, the ‘ordinary’ Muslim before Independence was behind the general population – and remains so.